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Manuel, Afolayan, Branch, Adeyemi set festive season on fire with Moremi The Musical

By Tobi Idowu
12 December 2018   |   4:24 am
Queen Moremi Ajasoro is one of the most revered women in Yoruba history. Like other great Nigerian women of the past such as Queen Amina, Queen Idia, Efunseta Aniwura...

Yoruba chiefs in their traditional regalia on set BAP’s Moremi the Musical

Queen Moremi Ajasoro is one of the most revered women in Yoruba history. Like other great Nigerian women of the past such as Queen Amina, Queen Idia, Efunseta Aniwura, and even relatively contemporary heroines such as Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti and the Aba Women, Moremi’s legend has been understated and put under the shadows of her male counterparts, whose deeds have enjoyed the creative attention of artists and writers over the years.

However, with the staging of the highly anticipated theatrical production, Moremi the Musical, by the House of Oduduwa Foundation, in collaboration with Bolanle Austen-Peters Production, from December 21, 2018 to January 2, 2019, the bravery, sacrifice and her epic heroism, Moremi’s legendary status will be fully retrieved from relative obscurity as she gets illuminated at Terra Kulture Theatre Arena, Lagos, this Christmas season. Theatregoers will have the opportunity to catch glimpses of the illustrious woman whose redemptive story of saving her people, while losing her marriage and her only son, will be truly appreciated.

Having achieved critical acclaim following the performance of Broadway-style musicals such as Saro, Wakaa, and Fela and Kalakuta Queens, Bolanle Austen-Peters Production would deliver another riveting performance with Queen Moremi Ajasoro, which some of the cast members have described as one the most challenging productions they have ever been part of.

Tosin Adeyemi, who will play Moremi, said it has been an honour rehearsing for the role of the legendary character, but noted that it has also been challenging.

“It’s been such an honour but very challenging too, physically, psychologically,” she said. “And I know that after the performance I would never be the same. I mean, in my craft and the way I relate with people. I believe that people need a Moremi in their lives, someone who could sacrifice everything for the good of the people.”

Adeyemi said she the audience would be thrilled with the performance, as they “should be expecting to cry, to laugh and dance as all the characters are portrayed in the best possible way.”

For veteran Nollywood actor, Femi Branch, who will play the roles of Olugbo and one of Ooni’s chiefs, one of the major reasons people should see the performance is because they would have an insight into the controversy of the place of Moremi in history, which makes people of Ugbo to contend with the people of Ife over her heroism.

Branch said, “It’s been very interesting for me depicting the character of Olugbo. I feel people should come and see the performance because there is this controversy between the Ife and Ugbo People. The controversy has been raging concerning Moremi, as to how she is seen in both kingdoms. The Ife people celebrate Moremi as a heroine because she literally saved them from the Ugbo, but the Ugbo, on the other hand, see her as a traitor because they believe that she sold them out to Ife people.

“It wasn’t Moremi who caused the controversy, but she had to do what she did in order to save her people after she was captured, through an act of god, by the people of Ugbo, through which she was able to get their secret and then later escaped to divulge it to her Ife people who later got liberated. People should come and see the production and find out the source of the animosity between the two kingdoms.”

Another doyen of the movie industry, Bimbo Manuel, whose role is that of Ooni Obaweren, who was on the throne during the travails of Ife people in the hands of Ugbo, which prompted the heroic intervention of Moremi, said the production team and cast got counseling and information from the Ile-Ife palace and historians in the course of getting materials for the production.

“Converting all of that information into the very limited space and time that stage allows is the first level of challenge,” he said. “Also theatre itself, in terms of the physical work and mental work that you have to do, learning your lines, delivery your lines and then converting all of that into emotions demands a lot of skills. But I assure that we have a good show in our hands.”

According to Manuel, the significance of Moremi to the Yoruba race cannot be quantified, and so, depicting her story is very significant. “When you discuss the Moremi story with people who know is when you begin to understand that the Yoruba race as we know it today, drawing its origin from Ile-Ife, could have been extinct if there was not Moremi. It is as special as very delicate a theme to depict because you cannot tell the story wrongly; so, we are constantly making references to texts we have available and the traditions based on the elders’ counsels as people who know.”

Manuel also said people should expect the best of performance as the Bolanle Austen-Peters-led production team had delivered tremendous and highly acclaimed theatrical shows in the past.

He said, “This is not the first time. Each time Austen-Peters has put up such production in the past, she broke theatre box offices here, and in the U.K. But this one is bigger. Moremi is massive in terms of story’s strength, in terms of cast strength, in terms of the technical input, in terms of the wardrobe, in terms of the research, and in terms of the sound. This is big.”

According to the Director and Producer, Mrs. Austen-Peters, the purpose of the project is to preserve and project the heroism and legacy of Queen Moremi, adding, “It is essential for us to know our roots and celebrate our history and heritage. It is therefore our desire to develop the Queen Moremi legacy into a musical drama that will preserve and promote history in the face of modernity.”

The performance will depict the deployment of dance, enchantment, magic and sacrifice, as well as war gimmicks deployed by Queen Moremi Ajasoro to achieve her historic feat. The production will include star-studded cast that include Kunle Afolayan, Omotola Jalade-Ekehinde, Bimbo Manuel, Femi Branch, Adeyemi Okanlawon, Tosin Adeyemi, Segun Dada, Paolo Sisiano, Moshood Fattah, Kehinde Oretimehin, Justin Ezirim, Franklyn Ossai, Celestine, and Ayo Ayoola.